Frustration of self-portraiture

I tried another self-portrait last week. As always, I’m frustrated with my inability to capture my own self in paint, and also with the weird distortions that come up (how did I end up looking so masculine?). However, I’m quite pleased with the shadows on my neck, and I think there’s something nice about the dabby blended colors. I’d been looking at Walter’s digitalscapes right before I started, and though my work doesn’t look anything like his, I think I was influenced by his impressionistic light/color-play and fuzzy outlines.

Self-portrait January 2012

Self-portrait January 2012

My portraits always irk me because I don’t seem to know how to work at length in the medium without everything becoming muddy and ponderous — at least, the end results look that way to me, since I have a very different impression in my head. Erik said, though, “You only think it sucks because you’re so much better now. A year or two ago you would have been thrilled to make this.” He’s right.

All the same, I wanted to know if I could capture myself any more accurately in a quick sketch, so I picked up the brush and looked into the mirror and did as fast a drawing as I could — I think I was done in 5 minutes or less. This one looks even less like me, so it wasn’t a useful exercise, though it was still fun to do (especially after laboring away at the other portrait for almost an hour).

Quickly sketched self-portrait

Quickly sketched self-portrait

Actually, though, I’m now looking over the first painted self-portrait I ever did, a little over a year ago (August 2010), and I think it’s got something too. I’m impressed with my level of fine detail, even if the overall effect is pretty wooden. That one was mostly gouache, if I remember right, which is probably how I managed the detail without the colors blending too much. Maybe on my next attempt I’ll try gouache again.

It always interests me to go back over my earlier self-portraits and compare them all to one another. I almost always feel that there’s something redeeming about each, and very often I even feel that some of that good quality has gotten lost as I’ve “improved” with time. With each comparison I can never draw any conclusions except that I’d better just keep going. Perhaps that’s the only real conclusion to draw, anyway. Keep going, keep going!

**edit**

I have to mention, also, that as a model I am getting pretty fed up with trying to paint myself too. It’s hard, and it’s boring, to sit staring into a mirror and try to get my likeness that way. I so wish I could step outside of my body for an hour and see myself at a few arms’-length. As a painter I long for more expressiveness in the portraits, and as the sitter I want the same in my poses. Grrr.

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